Playing long balls into empty space since 2012.

Sunday 28 April 2019

Association Football Resources in Australia (AFRA)

Archives, Artifacts, Bibliographies, Oral Histories and Databases
As Australia’s most nationally spread and diverse football code, association football (soccer) is also, perhaps necessarily, the most fragmented of games. It has fault and fracture lines that run across geography, ethnicity, historical period, class and gender. As a corollary, the game’s extant archives, artifacts, bibliographies and databases are, to put it mildly, in a shambles.
This is not to deny the tremendous work of bibliography, recording and collection that has been performed by disparate and enthusiastic individuals. Below is a non-exhaustive list of such individuals:
  • Oz Football
  • Persoglia
  • Punshon
  • Smith
  • Stock
  • Ultimate A League
  • Kreider
  • Howe
  • Hay
  • Krueger
  • Morley
  • McKenzie
  • McGowan

  • Boric
  • Mavroudis
  • Cotsanis

  • Hudson
  • Hunt
  • Pless

  • Jambaroo Pub, Johnny Warren Museum
  • Werner
  • Mosely

  • Kreider

  • Eedy
  • Boegheim
  • Robinson
  • O’Loughlin, Soccer Mad

  • Vanessa Lucchesi
  • Tony Smith
  • Denis Harlow

Yet this work has been let down by the absence of overarching co-ordination from a well-funded, committed and stable organisation. Does such an organisation exist, one with the necessary standing (in both legal and cultural senses) to validate such vital work for the future of soccer in Australia? If not, can one be constituted?
As Roy Hay argues, relying on a few enthusiasts is a recipe for long-term disaster.” Without co-ordinated oversight the game’s resources will continue to wither and crumble. Records will be lost, artifacts will decay, and databases will remain inexact, inconsistent and incomplete. Australia soccer needs to correct this absence as a matter of urgency if we are properly to memorialise our game.
It is no simple task. AFRA is established to co-ordinate and consult on matters relating to this massive undertaking. Feasibly, AFRA will be in a position to become the body that takes ownership of/responsibility for the task.
AFRA recognises five types of resource that need attention and curation: 1. archives, 2. artifacts, 3. publications, 4. oral histories and 5. databases.
·       The first and urgent necessary task is the creation of an inventory of all Australian soccer resources. This inventory will provide the informational basis for the processes and systems foreshadowed below.

These are the many records, personal and organisational, with a strong bearing on the history of soccer in Australia. Archives belonging to clubs, associations and federations are scattered across Australia: in libraries, archival and manuscript collections; as yet uncollected in clubhouses and/or committee rooms; or in the personal possession of club/association officials. Archives belonging to significant individuals are similarly scattered. The archives of Johnny Warren and Charlie Perkins, for example, have reached the safety of individual museum and NLA storage respectively but there are many more without such security. Recent digitisation has seen some of these records move on-line, but this welcome move can be seen also to heighten perceptions of fragmentation.
A separate category of archives relates to audio-visual records. Thousands of hours of match footage, recorded TV and radio commentary are spread across Australia in a most haphazard manner. Often this material is in poor or unusable condition and needs repair, restoration and/or conversion. This category also includes oral history recordings discussed in section 4 below.
·       An urgent task is to discover and record the existence of such archives.
·       An especial task is to identify those archives in danger of immediate dispersal or destruction.

As with its archives, soccer’s artifacts are scattered across the country and even internationally. Many are lost; some irretrievably so. Soccer is a game of many trophies and is probably the greatest ‘misplacer’ of significant trophies in Australian sport. Many important shields, cups, medals and curios have been lost and forgotten down the years. The Soccer Ashes are one example among hundreds of significant items.
The first task is to create an inventory of significant artifacts that are either
  • Housed in FFA affiliated places like club museums or federation rooms
  • Extant but in the possession of private individuals or organisations
  • Missing or Lost
Much debate exists in the soccer community about the merits of a museum to house these items. Is it possible to justify the establishment of centralised museum? Would association-based/regional museums have more practical benefits? Is it economically feasible to create such museums?
The expense of establishment and maintenance of such museums is possibly beyond the game’s reach. A better option might be to invest in an online museum site which co-ordinates artefact holdings as they presently exist. The site would be as complete as possible, containing textual, photographic and video representations of artifacts Australia wide. The site would also indicate where each holding is placed and offer viewers opportunities to communicate with and travel to such holdings. Of course, none of this precludes the establishment of centralised museums should appropriate investment be found.
·       In the absence of such funding that would establish and maintain adequate museums, we need to begin the process of constructing an on-line museum.
Many soccer books, magazines, reports, pamphlets and other printed records have been published in Australia down the years. Yet the game has neither a library nor bibliographic records that capture the totality of that body of work. Some bibibliographic records exist in many of the books recently published. Also, researchers have compiled their own relatively thorough listings. Contemporary library search functions are another means of bibliographic compilation. Yet the bibliographic record remains incomplete and unable to be accessed by the public.
·       We need to establish a centralised library and begin the construction of a thorough bibliographic record.

 Oral Histories
The use of oral history as a method of research in the history of soccer is increasing as practitioners come to acknowledge the importance of memory and shared experience. It records stories normally unheard. Moreover, disempowered groups including women, migrants and the indigenous are provided with an avenue in which to share their experiences and to become part of the recorded history of the game.
Unfortunately, little is being done in relation to the provision of appropriate archives for recorded interviews/transcripts. In relation to individual research (PhD theses, for example), they often remain in the keep of the researcher and remain unavailable to other researchers or to the wider public. While other studies such as those undertaken by Nikki Henningham (Sport oral history project), are archived within the National Library. The recorded voices of those involved are scattered and remain unheard by others who would clearly benefit from the research and history.
·       A search is required to identify all research, which is based on oral history and include it in the bibliography. In addition an archive space (as per sections 1) which could house the recorded voices or at least identify a location would greatly assist the protection of such an important asset.

Who were the champions of Mt Isa in 1973? Was the game played in Lismore in 1927? If so, who won that year? Which individual player scored the most goals in Melbourne in 1958? How many players were there in Perth in 1914? How many enlisted in the AIF?
The answers to these questions should be easy to find on-line. Without specialised knowledge they are, however, nearly impossible to divine. Perhaps the most urgent task of all, we need as a game to know the simple statistical facts of our history. Individuals like Mark Boric in Victoria are doing tremendous work compiling such information; but the process lacks support from federations (FFA and FFV in this case). AFRA calls for the digitisation of all historical results data from all associations and regions.
·       We need to commit to the goal of recovering, compiling and publishing all available historical and contemporary statistical data related to players, games and results in a systematised and consistent database.
·       This commitment needs to be reflected in a mandate given to the federations to get their houses in order in relation to this process.

Wednesday 3 April 2019

The life and times of Joe Davidson: black Australian soccer star and WW1 digger

Joe Davidson (The Australian Star, 1908. Credit: Trove,
National Library of Australia)

Sydney Cricket Ground, 5 September 1908
It was one of the biggest Australian club football games in years. The final of the 1908 Gardiner Cup, the knockout competition for clubs in New South Wales, pitted the top two sides in Sydney against each other. The NSW Football Association had even secured the famous Sydney Cricket Ground for the showpiece fixture.
Wearing dirty red jerseys was Glebe, surprise winners of the First League, out to do the double. They hadn’t lost a game all year.
Their opponents, in royal blue, were Pyrmont, runners-up to Glebe in the League by one point and out for revenge. Prior to this season Pyrmont had won the League three years straight. In the Cup they were beaten finalists for the last two years.
This was the era of district football, where players lived in the area represented by their club. Pyrmont drew their players and supporters from the ranks of workers from the many industries in the area including the Colonial Sugar Refinery, the Pyrmont power station, scores of iron foundries and mills, and at the nearby wharves. With origins going back to the Scottish-influenced Pyrmont Rangers club of 1885, Pyrmont had the strongest following of any club in Sydney.
There was a chill in the air on that dull and wet September afternoon as the teams walked out onto the field. They stopped in front of the pavilion and gave three cheers to Sir Harry Rawson, the Governor of New South Wales. Although the weather had kept the attendance down, the atmosphere was super-charged by the sound of the pipers of the Scottish Rifles. According to one newspaper, by kick-off the spectators were ‘making a deuce of a row.’

Pyrmont District Football Club, winners of the Gardiner Cup, 1908.
Joe Davidson is the first on the left in the second row. (
The Australian Star, 1908. Credit: Trove, National Library of Australia)

Glebe started well, forcing an early save from the Pyrmont keeper. But the Blues settled down, thanks to some incisive attacking runs by their speedy outside right, Joe Davidson.
At the end of one of these runs, Davidson crossed to Bill Carey who slotted home to open the scoring for Pyrmont.
Shortly after, Davidson took off down the wing again. His cross found Carey who made it 2-0. Davidson was tearing the Glebe left side defence apart. He had an assist in the third goal and by half-time the match was as good as over. Davidson also set up the only goal of the second half as Pyrmont romped to a convincing 4-0 victory.
The Governor presented the Pyrmont captain, Lyons, with the Gardiner Cup amidst great applause. This was a fine moment for one of the great clubs of early Australian football.
The accolades for Davidson’s performance came from all quarters. The Arrow said, ‘No cleverer outside right play has been seen in Sydney for at least two years’, while the Sydney Sportsman told its readers, ‘the hero of the day was Pyrmont’s outside right, Davidson, whose fine line work was responsible for every one of Pyrmont’s goals.’
Clearly here was a man at the top of his game in a team at the top of its form. So who was Joe Davidson, Pyrmont’s lightning-fast right winger?
In the second half of that 1908 Gardiner Cup Final, Glebe switched their burly English centre-forward Smith to fullback to counter Davidson’s pace. Down 3-0 at the time, it was a tactical switch made far too late but did help keep the score down. When the lighter Davidson got up slowly after a heavy challenge from Smith, one of the spectators made the remark, ‘it is only a Coon that can stand a knock like that. It is marvellous that he didn’t break his neck.’
The c-word was bandied around a lot, especially by the Sydney Sportsman. That same newspaper also less crudely described him as ‘the coloured outside right of Pyrmont.’
Headline from the 1908 Gardiner Cup Final. (The Sunday Sun,
September 1908. Credit: Trove, National Library of Australia)

The Star Performer
Davidson was born in Brisbane in 1884. His mother was originally from England and his father was a seaman from Jamaica. It’s not certain when the family moved down to Sydney but by 1896 they were living in a house in Mill, Street Pyrmont, within earshot of the tugboats of Sydney Harbour.
Pyrmont boomed during Davidson’s adolescence. By the early 1900s it had became the most densely populated and industrialised suburb in Australia. Central to this growth were the miles of wharves stretching from Pyrmont around to Darling Harbour and Miller’s Point.
With a burgeoning population including many migrants, soccer became the dominant local code. Joe Davidson would have played the sport all his mates were playing. To use a contemporary example, Davidson taking up soccer in Pyrmont was as natural as Dally Messenger taking up rugby in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
Pyrmont and The Hungry Mile c.1900, Joe Davidson’s stamping ground.
(Credit: City of Sydney Archives)

Davidson first appeared in footballing reports during 1903, playing for Pyrmont’s third grade team when he was 18 or 19 years old. According to the newspaper Referee: ‘The Third Grade team has some very promising players, notably Davidson and Cameron.’
The following year Davidson was playing first grade. In a game against Balmain he ‘had numerous shots at goal, but met with hard luck.’
In 1905 Davidson was temporarily dropped to second grade but soon regained his place in the senior team where became a regular for the next five years. The first report of Davidson scoring a goal, from a header, came in a game against Granville. More goals would follow including a hat-trick against South Sydney. It was a breakout season for Davidson and to cap it off, Pyrmont won the league.
The following season, 1906, Davidson played in his first Gardiner Cup Final. Pyrmont had already won the league and were looking to do the double at the expense of Glebe. The match was played before a crowd of 7,000 paying customers (and many more sitting on the cliffs overlooking the ground) at the Epping Racecourse and was one of the biggest in the history of Australian club soccer at the time.
Pyrmont were defeated 3-2 but Davidson was given plaudits for his play. The Sunday Sun reported that ‘Davidson put in some very fine centres during the game. Nearly every match this player figures in he shows improved form.’
The 1907 season saw Pyrmont win their third premiership in a row. They won through to the Gardiner Cup Final courtesy of a Davidson goal in the semi but lost the final to Newcastle outfit Broadmeadow.
Among the singers at the end of season presentation night that year was none other than Joe Davidson.
Davidson’s off-field talents weren’t confined to his vocal cords. At the start of the 1908 season, he was on Pyrmont’s committee and was the club’s delegate to the New South Wales Football Association where he served on the football council.
On the field, Davidson registered Pyrmont’s first goal of the season. In one match report The Australian Star declared he ‘was the star performer of the afternoon. His dribbling, shooting and passing was much admired by the crowd, and he has considerably improved since last season.’
As already noted,1908 was a memorable year for Pyrmont, the disappointment of finishing second in the league being made up for with their Gardiner Cup triumph. Davidson, who had played well all season, was rewarded with selection in the Sydney Metropolitan team that defeated a representative team from Newcastle 2-1 at the Sydney Sports Ground.
In 1909 Davidson missed selection for New South Wales, but played for the Sydney Metropolitan team against Western Australia at the Sydney Showground. In the league, Pyrmont carried all before them, dropping only one point on the way to a fourth premiership in five years. They narrowly missed out on the double, losing the Gardiner Cup final 3-0 to Adamstown in a replay after the first match was drawn.
Again, Davidson had a good season. The Arrow reported ‘He was very agile and fast against Sydney, skipping nimbly over his tackler’s feet, and his centre kicks invariably put his opponents goal in danger.’ In a review of the season, George Vander wrote in the The Star: ‘Good, speedy, and clever wingmen are extremely rare in Sydney at the present time, the best being undoubtedly Allen (Sydney) and Davidson (Pyrmont).’
Joe Davidson was still one of the top players at the best club in Sydney at the end of 1909. But the hugely successful Pyrmont club was about to self-destruct, taking Davidson’s career with it.

The Western Australian team of 1909.
Davidson played against them for the Sydney Metropolitan X1.
(The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 1909.
Credit: Trove, National Library of Australia)

The Lost Years
Shortly before the start of the 1910 season, Pyrmont advised the New South Wales Football Association that they were disbanding and withdrawing from all competitions. The club had many grievances with the association, but cited in particular that the medals awarded to the Cup winners, Adamstown, were of better quality than the ones Pyrmont received for winning the league.
The Pyrmont players turned out for nearby teams but it proved difficult to break into established combinations. Davidson made one appearance in a friendly for the Balmain club but that was the extent of his football involvement for the season. It wasn’t a completely forgettable year for Davidson though - he married local girl Annie Rose in October 1910.
In 1911 a newly formed West Sydney club was cobbled together from the Pyrmont and Ultimo clubs. But this proved a disaster. Early in the season only six players, all ex-Pyrmont including Davidson, turned up for a premiership match against Granville and were thrashed 11-1. This result must have weighed heavily on the minds of such proud players. Unable to get a full strength team together, West Sydney forfeited nearly every game that year.
Davidson drops out of the picture entirely in 1912, and in 1913 plays in just the one match for Glebe where he ‘failed to exhibit any of his old time form’. Since the disbanding of the Pyrmont club, Davidson had played just four matches in four years and was out of form, his career as good as over. That couldn’t keep him away from football. In June 1914 the Arrow announced that Davidson ‘is now a knight of the whistle’ - a referee.
At the end of 1914 Davidson played in a referees exhibition game. As a match official, his greatest moment was as a linesman in the wartime 1915 Gardiner Cup Final. It was a game played in front of a big crowd including wounded returned servicemen and a draft from the Devonshire regiment.
Still as keen on the game as ever, Davidson was spotted in the crowd at the final domestic match of the 1916 season. Then, in 1917, he enlisted in the AIF.

From the Hungry Mile to the Sportsman’s Unit
On Joe Davidson’s enlistment papers he lists his occupation as a wharf labourer. Having lived near the waterfront at Pyrmont since at least the age of ten, it was likely he was a wharfie all his working life.
It was a tough occupation. For most of this period the work was casual and prospective workers would turn up at ‘pick-up points’ and hope to be selected by a Stevedoring company’s foreman to work on one of the ships. If not chosen they would trudge to the next pick-up point. If they missed out entirely they would go without pay. It was for this reason the whole area around the Darling Harbour waterfront was known as ‘The Hungry Mile.

            They toil and sweat in slavery, 'twould make the devil smile,
           To see the Sydney wharfies tramping down the hungry mile.

These lines from the 1930 poem The Hungry Mile by Ernest Antony evoke a period and lifestyle Joe Davidson would have known only too well.
For those lucky to find it, the work was back-breaking. They lifted heavy loads, worked long hours and had few breaks. Some of the wheat bags they hauled on their backs weighed over 150kgs. For a wharfie, injuries and even death from workplace accidents came with the territory.
In August 1917, waterside workers joined railway workers in what would become Australia’s biggest strike.
Unionists clashed with strikebreakers at picket lines at railway depots and on the wharves. Waterside workers stayed out until early October.
The strike split the community along sectarian and class lines. It came at a time when a general war weariness had set in, the 1916 conscription referendum had failed, and enlistments were down to a trickle.
To help boost recruitment, the government introduced the concept of Sportsman’s Units. Sportsmen were encouraged to enlist as a group and recruiting officers were despatched to sporting events to address crowds during breaks in play. Often the speakers were heckled by annoyed sports fans.
On 15th October, shortly after the wharfies went back to work, Joe Davidson reported to the Darlinghurst recruitment office. Hand-written in blue ink on the front of Davidson’s enlistment papers are the words: ‘Sportsman’s Unit.’
Newspaper propaganda for the Sportsman’s Unit.
(The Barrier Miner, September 1917. 
Credit: Trove, National Library of Australia)

One shell every 10 seconds
In December 1917 Davidson left Sydney on the Ulysses. He passed through Egypt, Taranto in Italy, Cherbourg in France, and Southampton before arriving at an army camp in England. During training, Davidson’s leadership abilities were recognised with a promotion to acting Lance Corporal. He left England for France, joining the 18th battalion in the front line near Ville-sur-Ancre in May 1918.
What would life have been like on the front line for Joe Davidson? On the night of the 27 May, a week after he entered the trenches, the battalion’s position came under heavy fire, mustard gas shells falling amongst the men at the rate of one every 10 seconds. A few days later nearly 2,000 artillery rounds rained down on them in the pre-dawn darkness. There were night patrols across no man’s land and machine gun and small arms fire. It was a precarious existence.
Then on 22 July Davidson reported to a field hospital with a broken wrist. It was not a battlefield wound however. On the casualty forms it was stated ‘injured accidentally - soldier not to blame.’ Could he have injured himself playing soccer behind the lines? Also picked up in x-rays was an existing leg fracture – if this was something picked up during Davidson’s soccer career then it could explain why he played so little after 1909.
The wrist injury was debilitating enough for him to be sent to an army hospital in England. From there he was repatriated to Australia, arriving back in Sydney in December 1918.
In 1920 Davidson appears in the Sydney sports press again. A journalist from the Arrow said: ‘At Wentworth Park I ran across Joe Davidson, recently returned from active service. With Pyrmont he was the fastest outside right that ever dribbled a round ball.’
The following year, the Arrow advised its readers that Davidson ‘is suffering from a fractured arm’, possibly a reference to the wrist injury he had picked up on active service.

Glebe Island Wharf No.2, July 1947
In early July 1947, a foreman from the NSW Stevedoring company entered the hold of the steamship SS Yearby, tied up alongside the Glebe Island wharf. The ship had been taking on a load of wheat and the wharfies had been working long hours getting her ready. On his night-time rounds he found a worker he described as a ‘dark man’ lying unconscious on the floor with a cut behind his ear. It was Joe Davidson. He was taken to Sydney Hospital in a bad way.
A few weeks later Davidson had made a partial recovery, enough for his doctor to suggest he could soon return to work. But on the morning of 25 July 1947, the one time lightning fast right winger was found dead at his home in Pyrmont.

A lively time of it
Joe Davidson’s football career was played during the early years of the White Australia Policy and when racial fears had surfaced during the 1908 visit of black heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson. The question comes to mind - was he subject to racial abuse from the terraces?
In Davidson’s case there is mixed evidence. During that memorable Cup Final of 1908 the Sydney Sportsman reported ‘Davidson, who is black, was getting a lively time of it from the crowd’, yet after he was flattened in a challenge by Smith, he was ‘loudly cheered’ when he got to his feet.

At a match in Newcastle in 1907 the Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate reported ‘J. Davidson (Pyrmont) was frequently applauded for his brilliant play.’ The fact that the soccer community was small and close-knit might have mitigated against th
e type of virulent racial abuse suffered by black Englishman Walter Tull while playing for Tottenham Hotspur in the same period.
Pyrmont vs Glebe, 1903, the year Davidson broke into
Pyrmont’s third grade team. 
(The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, 1903.
Credit: Trove, National Library of Australia)

The old-timers
When a reporter spoke to Davidson at a match in Sydney in 1920, he said ‘Davidson asks me to announce that he lost his military medal and discharge, and is anxious to regain them.’ He was obviously proud of his war service. In 1941, at the age of 57, he wrote to the AIF records office requesting he be issued with a replacement set.
As a man, Joe Davidson was popular amongst his peers. In 1921 he was invited to a dinner in honour of Gardiner Cup winners from the past. Here he rubbed shoulders with men who had played in the very first soccer matches in Sydney in 1880.
In 1929, an old-time footballer by the name of Lockie Richards organised a team to play a benefit match in Corrimal. The match was in aid of Wollongong football identity “Snowy” Richards, who prior to World War 1 played for Balmain and had represented New South Wales against New Zealand. Richards contacted many of his old colleagues to take part, including the then 45 year-old Joe Davidson.
Led by the Corrimal Citizens’ Band, the players marched in procession down the town’s main street to Memorial Park.
The game finished 3-3 and was well attended, many spectators commenting on the skills of the old-time players. 
Great reminiscing was had at the function after the game. ‘The present day players had nothing over the old timers’, said one speaker. Snowy Richards captured the mood of the night when he said ‘Tonight is a reunion,’ and he hoped ‘one to be long remembered.’
In the midst of the back-slapping and tall stories it’s not hard to imagine Davidson doing some football reminiscing of his own. Perhaps he mentioned to one or two old-timers about a day at the Sydney Cricket Ground when he set up all four goals in the Cup Final and how his team was presented with the trophy by the Governor. There were many experiences Davidson could draw on: as a player, club official, referee, spectator, and matches played during his war service.
Davidson did more than just reminisce. During the evening he performed a number of songs to loud applause. His final number was Every Nation has a Flag but the Coon. It was an intriguing song choice. An overtly racist minstrel song from America dating back to 1901, it was meant to be performed by white singers. Sure Davidson was entertaining his audience but you get the feeling he was playing around with the racist trope. What ever the motivation, the performance stole the show. The Sydney Sportsman said ‘but nothing, not even the hops, went down so well as Joe Davidson’s version.’ He was both a born entertainer and fine sportsman. Whether delivering a song or whipping in a cross from the right wing, Joe’s timing was always impeccable.

Paul Nicholls